The Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) says that if the share of the local working age population without any formal qualifications were reduced to the rate seen in the top 10 per cent of local authorities, employment in England would be up to 573,000 higher.
The think-tank’s analysis suggests this employment cost is concentrated in the most deprived fifth of local authorities, where tackling basic skills inequality could boost employment by up to 302,000.
It says that in Sandwell in the West Midlands and Pendle in Lancashire – two of the most deprived areas of England – more than 20 per cent of the local working age population lack any formal qualifications.
But reducing this percentage to the three per cent enjoyed in places like Richmond upon Thames and Bath and North-East Somerset is associated with an employment uplift of up to 3,700 in Pendle and 14,300 in Sandwell.
Cutting the skills gap between Bradford and the top ten per cent of local authority areas would increase employment by between 2.8 and 4.3 per cent, the equivalent of between 9,300 and 14,300 jobs. Though the gap between Leeds and the top ten per cent is much smaller, doing the same would increase employment by between 4,800 and 7,400 jobs.
In Kirklees, between 3,900 and 6,300 new jobs could be created, in Doncaster between 3,800 and 5,800 jobs and in Sheffield between 3,600 and 5,500. The areas of Yorkshire which would see the least benefit were Ryedale, York, Craven and Richmondshire.
Andy Norman, research analyst at the Centre for Progressive Policy, says: “Too many people are cut adrift from economic opportunity because they lack basic skills. CPP’s analysis has shown that helping these people onto and up the skills ladder can provide a massive boost to employment, particularly in the country’s most deprived areas.
“If the government truly is committed to getting people back into work and ‘building back better’ after coronavirus, then they must start by levelling up skills in the most deprived parts of the country.”
Among the measures the CPP is calling for is the removal of financial barriers by offering free childcare and transport for learners lacking qualifications. It also urges the Government to simplify the funding system and offer a three-year funding settlement for community learning, which covers a range of outreach schemes to bring adults together to learn.
The report said that despite the efforts of the Government, the UK "now faces a potential employment crisis" as the pandemic has already seen the number of payrolled employees drop by 693,000.
It added: "The unemployment impact of the pandemic does not fall evenly. People with low skill levels are already being hit particularly hard."
According to the CPP, since the start of the outbreak, paid work for people with GCSEs or below has fallen by nearly seven per cernt, while remaining unchanged for those with a degree.
The full report can be found here.